Vocab 101: Help Workers Define Basic Health Terms

Do your employees know their co-pay from their FSA?

If they are like most U.S. employees, they probably lack a basic understanding of these common healthcare vocabulary terms, according to a new Watson Wyatt survey.

In its survey of nearly 2,100 covered workers, Watson Wyatt found that a top challenge for 43% of workers is understanding what their healthcare plan covers.

Just 49% are comfortable explaining what a co-pay means; 46% are comfortable explaining what a deductible means, and only 36% are comfortable defining the term “flexible spending account.”

Forget about describing health savings accounts, coinsurance, and other healthcare terms. Just 16% know the term “formulary,” while only 8% could define “center of excellence.”

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“Helping employees improve their healthcare literacy and learn the terminology can make or break a company’s healthcare efforts overall,” said Kathryn Yates, Watson Wyatt’s director of communications.

The survey notes that 52% of employees admit to reading all the materials provided by their employer during the annual healthcare enrollment process. Another 45% read only what is needed to enroll in a plan or to make changes. The remaining 3% do not read any of the materials provided.

Yates suggests that employers communicate with employees in ways that meet their needs and preferences. This might include using a mix of channels and formats to empower employees to become smarter healthcare consumers, she explains.

For example, the survey found that close to 70% of employees like to receive communication about their healthcare benefits in print. When possible, they also noted a preference to have these materials mailed to their homes.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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